In an annual rite of the offseason, the Golden Nugget last week dropped its early lines on what it terms college football's "games of the year" – 200 of the most anticipated matchups of the upcoming season. You know, like Colorado State-Boise State and Louisville-Boston College.
The linesmakers at the Nugget made Oklahoma the favorite in every game that they put a line on:
- -19 vs. Tennessee
- -17 vs. West Virginia
- -14 vs. TCU
- -9 vs. Texas
- -14 vs. Kansas State
- -22.5 vs. Iowa State
- -11 vs. Baylor
- -10 vs. Texas Tech
- -11 vs. Oklahoma State
(We can assume that the Sooners will be heavy favorites in their other three games – Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Kansas.)
Sharp gamblers in Vegas immediately marked OU as a team they'd be fading. Six of the nine spreads moved against the Sooners, while none went in their direction. The shifts included one of the largest in all of the available games as OU dipped down from a two-touchdown favorite to giving 11.5 versus TCU.
The skepticism of these degenerates doesn't shock me. Under Bob Stoops, the Sooners have garnered a not undeserved rep among the stained sweatpants set as a bet-against team, one that tends to be way more style than substance.
On the other hand, one interpretation of the news from the desert speaks to my willingness to go all-in on OU this year.
Chase Stuart of Football Perspective used the GOTY lines to come up with implied power ratings for 77 teams around the country, including all of the big dogs. (Note that Stuart is essentially quantifying Vegas' opinions on teams through this exercise, not creating his own ratings.) The Sooners rank 6th nationally, according to Stuart's calculations, which is about where they were last year at this time (7th). Yet, per Stuart's numbers, the consensus in Vegas is that OU is roughly two points better this time around.
Furthermore, the ranking of difficulty of the Sooners' schedule appears to have dropped precipitously, down from 43rd out of 83 teams in 2013 to 57th out of 77 teams now.
Math on that isn't tricky: The books think OU is fielding a better team than the one that it had last year, which was already pretty strong, and will be doing so against a dramatically easier slate of games. In that sense, it's easy to see why the Sooners are a strong bet to take the field in the new College Football Playoff come January.